Candidate-centered voting and political sophistication in Brazil 2002



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More and more, elections around the world seem to be won or lost on the basis of the candidates’ personal qualities rather than their policies. Despite its prevalence and consequences, we still know very little about what explains such candidate-centered voting, particularly in new democratic contexts. I argue that variation in candidate-centered voting is largely a function of political sophistication: voters with higher levels of political sophistication are better able to process information relating to policy and performance, which tends to be more cognitively demanding than information relating to candidate’s personalities. To test this argument, I estimate models of vote choice and electoral utility using survey data from the 2002 presidential election in Brazil. The results largely support my contention that political sophistication conditions the weight of candidate considerations relative to policy and performance considerations.